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One good conversation can shift the direction of change forever.
— Unknown Source

I’m addicted and conflicted. After years of ignoring the world of podcasting, today I declare that I am at one with this new (for me) form of entertainment and knowledge. So hooked am I, that I now own a range of earbuds from cheap turnpike store buys to the Manolo Blahniks of listening devices.

Part of me delights in my self-perceived hipness when strolling downtown with earbuds visible, while the realist in me is aware that I’ve become that tuned-out dope who could step in front of an oncoming truck.

The growing popularity of podcasts demonstrates how starved our society is for real conversation, respectful debate or just the chance to listen quietly to opposing viewpoints without becoming defensive. Podcasts provide a refreshing alternative to nightly television talking heads as well as shelter from Twitter’s predictable hostile rants and attacks about anything.

Podcasts don’t inspire sensational, knee jerk reactions that go viral. Listeners have an opportunity to think about what they’ve heard. Fans even speak about their learning experience with other human beings…in person…face to face. I have seen it happen and it is good.

People seek the satisfaction that comes from good meaty conversation which translates to a desire for communication that isn’t limited by 280 characters. Sadly, the world’s collective attachment to social media has converted conversation into a luxury experience rather than an ordinary part of being human.

Recently, the nation reacted quickly and apparently incorrectly (the facts remain cloudy) to several events that were rapidly escalated by random social media users, and which resulted in a national rush to judgment. No one had all the (or maybe any) facts about the incidents yet the information was interpreted by many to be credible, simply because strangers tweeted and retweeted over and over.

Twitter has its benefits for sure, particularly in emergencies when information needs rapid and broad distribution. Lapses in accuracy in such circumstances are understandable. But Twitter’s quite prominent negative and just plain mean element, is finally giving people pause.

Last year, New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman sought respite from Twitter stating, “…it’s not really helping the discourse.” Her colleague, columnist Farhad Manjoo suggested earlier this year that journalists pull back from Twitter because, “…it prizes image over substance and cheap dunks over reasoned debate.” News organizations are evaluating the role Twitter plays in how journalists work, the implication being that facts over raw, unsubstantiated commentary, matter. A critical approach to Twitter is refreshing. I’m sure there’s a podcast about that.